I have an iPad. I bought the 16G WiFi only device as an experiment in user experience. My goal was to understand the UI metaphor and get my fingers active in device interaction like the iPhone couldn’t facilitate. Ultimately, I might choose to write software for the device too.
After about 10 days of working with the device, here’re a few of my observations:
First of all, the product is incomplete, which is not a problem since the key missing features are all software and I’m sure they’ll be filling in the gaps quickly. Apple correctly started with a large iPhone premise and the incomplete dimensions are related to that. For example, I learned today that Apple is releasing an updated OS which includes wireless printing. For a first release, this is a surprising elegant package.
To start, iPhone apps work on the iPad, just bigger. This is a little goofy, but I hope that many developers will figure out that this is a different market and different use-case than the iPhone. The Wall Street Journal app for iPad is awesome – better than for the iPhone because the screen geometry is so expansive. The ads are unobtrusive but ready for clicking and quite engaging. It’s certainly not the noise of the web.
I’ve purchased the Keynote (PPT equivalent for Mac) and Pages (Word equivalent for Mac) apps despite the nasty flaming they got from early adopters. They are quite functional for me, as a document creator and presenter. The iPad VGA connector only works in Keynote and in movies, so it can’t be a screen multiplier like with so many other mobile devices. (Nokia did this).
Initiating and controlling file transfers to the Mac, required since there is no printing or network-based file transfers other than emailing or posting on iWork.com. File transfers have to be through the iTunes sync process which is a little awkward given that the box to load/unload files is buried under the Apps tab of iTunes (see my red arrow on right) whenever the iPad is syncing with your Mac (I suppose this works for iTunes/Windows too, right?).
I had hoped that I’d be able to post the files generated on the iPad to the company wiki, but no luck. It wouldn’t recognize that there were files available.
My posture with the iPad caused repetitive strain injury affecting the muscles in my back.
Also, my plan was to use the mobile Safari as an input browser to the backend UI of this site’s content management system which would increase the places where I could create content (breakfast table, McDonalds, Starbucks) without having to setup the laptop. I had to create a special account in the backend for the iPad and assign a text-only editor to that account. The smart editors I like to use are flash-based which is not supported on the iPhone or the iPad. To blog while on the iPad, I now write the post in Pages and load it up to the Mac on iTunes sync. I copy and paste the prose into the editor window of the backend making whatever url or format changes as appropriate. A little complicated, but it does make it easier than using the laptop which now offers only 10 minutes of battery life, is quite warm on the lap and has lots of things regularly plugged into the USBs. The iPad is only nominally more or less convenient than the laptop.
The screen keyboard is better (read bigger) than on the iPhone, but you still have to type using one finger in each hand. There are no ridges to help you place your fingers correctly on the keyboard like on the Apple keyboards and you run the risk of creating typos if you try to have your fingers above the screen. You inevitably hit keys you didn’t mean to.
I bought the Apple cover for the iPad too. Although a little awkward to get it on the first time, it seems nearly impossible to get the cover off, so don’t try.
Probably the most disappointing aspect is that my posture with the iPad caused repetitive strain injury affecting muscles in my back. Turning my head has been such a pain today. I’ve had to wave off the iPad today in the hopes of healing the pain. I think it was my right hand holds the device low, while my left hand is raised with elbow out to punch the keys. iPad operation can be overdone. Be careful with your posture.
The device is heavier than I expected because of the battery pack built into the device (not for user replacement), but holds a charge for the whole day. Recharging takes only a few hours using the USB-plug box. Note that the iPad does not charge when syncing to a computer and it will tell you so.
Although this product has terrific speakers and a microphone built-in, it is not a mobile phone. Both the WiFi only and WiFi and 3G versions can be a VoIP phone over the WiFi signal. Some carriers will allow VoIP over the 3G data path. The iPad can sync up with bluetooth attachments such as a keyboard and hopefully a bluetooth headset (I haven’t tried or read about this). Since the VoIP client software can not run in background (see remarks below), VoIP calls can’t interrupt other apps. However the iPad has excellent potential as a speakerphone, in that users talk to it while it sits on the conference table for scheduled calls or iPad-out sessions.
The iPad is an important mobile business device, extending the elegant user experience that Apple innovated for the iPhone into a larger package that makes the iPad suitable as a device for systems access for service technicians, IT professionals, physicians, store clerks (I saw an app for credit card processing on the iPad), inventory pickers, executives and the like. It brings data capture and data presentation together in a package that solved the keyboard challenge but allows/encourages a point and tap class of UI. As a new class of device, the iPad is not a tablet Mac. Instead, it is a tablet iPhone.
No doubt the iPad’s limited communications features (data-only) will be aggressively exploited for VoIP and unified communications (IM, video communications viewing (no camera)). Despite its exciting and pleasing user experience, the iPad, like the iPhone still offers only limited background app operation. In the coming releases, I would hope Apple will further loosen control over what apps or under what conditions an app can run in the background. This is a critical feature for many, many enterprise applications for this class of device that will only be addressed in a cursory way until multi-threading is enabled.